Odd man out

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 5 Mar 2024

Of the four Egyptian clubs participating in Africa’s two most coveted football championships, only one could not reach the quarter-finals, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

Ahly of Egypt progressed to the quarter-finals
Ahly of Egypt progressed to the quarter-finals

 

In the African Champions League, defending champions Ahly of Egypt progressed to the quarter-finals, hoping to go all the way for a record-extending 12th title.

However, Pyramids FC, also of Egypt, could not continue the journey, bowing out in the group stage.

Ahly concluded the group stage of the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Young Africans of Tanzania in Egypt on Friday. Ahly’s only goal of the match came from Hussein Al-Shahat in the 46th minute following a pass from Tunisian defender Ali Maaloul.

Despite already securing qualification for the knockout stages, Ahly wanted to finish first in the group to be able to meet a second-placed team in the round of eight.
The victory in Cairo solidified the position of the home side at the top of Group D with 12 points, while Young Africans finished second with eight points.

Only the first two teams in the groups advance.

For the first time since 2008, Ahly qualified without losing any matches in the group stage and also qualified as group leaders for the first time since 2019.

Pyramids had no such luck, ousted from the group stage even before the last game was played. In Group A, Pyramids finished dead last with only three points from six games.

Five former champions are among the sides that secured their places in the quarter-finals with Ahly (11), TP Mazembe (5), Esperance (4), Asec Mimosas (1) and Mamelodi Sundowns (1), all having previously lifted Africa’s most coveted club football trophy.

Of the eight teams that officially booked their places, three are yet to taste continental success. Two of those clubs still looking for a maiden title, Simba and Young Africans, are the only two in the quarters this year coming from the same country, Tanzania. 

In one of the biggest upsets of the tournament thus far, last year’s finalists Wydad of Casablanca crashed out of Group B.

Wydad finished third with nine points, equal on points with Simba, however, the head-to-head results saw the Tanzanians go through instead.

In the second-tier African club championship, the Confederation Cup, two of Egypt’s finest, Zamalek and Modern Future, reached the quarter-finals.

Modern Future secured their spot after drubbing Al-Hilal from Libya in Cairo 5-0 victory on Sunday.

Zamalek made it to the quarters without playing their final game. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) canceled Zamalek’s scheduled game against SOAR Coyah following the Guinea-based team’s announcement of a no-show due to travel difficulties.

The Guinean team had been set to face Zamalek at Cairo International Stadium late on Sunday.

Zamalek had reportedly refused to postpone the game because they are scheduled to face arch-rivals Ahly in the Egypt Super Cup final on 8 March in Saudi Arabia. 

Not that the group match would have mattered much. SOAR Coyah finished bottom of Group B with only one point, while Zamalek had already secured a spot in the quarter-finals with a group-leading 13 points after completing just five rounds, a four-point advantage over second-placed Abu Salem of Libya.

Their previous encounter in December saw Zamalek blast their way past SOAR 4-0.

As Group A runners-up, Modern Future advanced to the next round with 11 points, just two points behind the group leaders, USMA of Algeria, who also defeated SuperSport United 2-1 on Sunday.

This season’s quarter-finalists include four clubs that have lifted the title in recent years: current holders USM Alger (2022-23), Stade de Malien (2008-09), and RS Berkane (2019-20, 2021-22), as well as Zamalek (2018-19).

Making up the final list of quarter-finalists after Sunday’s fixtures are Nigeria’s Rivers United, Dreams FC of Ghana, Abu Salem of Libya and Modern Future, all looking at making a name for themselves on the continent.

CAF said it will announce the date for the draw of the quarter-finals of both the Champions League and Confederation Cup in the coming days.

The quarter-final draw for the Champions League and Confederation Cup will be conducted on 12 March.

The draw will be in Cairo starting with the Confederation Cup at 2pm Cairo time and the Champions League at 3pm.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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